Sunday, 3 August 2014

Riley is making huge progress since using his iPad from Hearts & Minds

I first became aware of hearts and minds in 2012 after a friend forwarded me a YouTube video of Keith Duffy from Boyzone speaking at the hearts and minds madmen charity ball of his daughters autism journey.
As with anything with the word autism in I watched intently, only receiving my sons non- verbal autism diagnosis at the age of 2 just a few months before. As soon as the video finished I went straight to google and searched for the charity. I had read previously how iPads were helping children with autism in the United States with communication, social skills and education and how for some reason technology seemed to be a "key" to connecting with the child. An iPad was something we could never afford to buy and was viewed as something of a luxury item to families with a higher household income than we could ever achieve. I had had to give up work to care for our son, whilst my husband was working more hours to try make up the deficit.

On searching for hearts and minds I found their phones for iPads exchange scheme and it became my mission to find the 165 old mobile phones for this miracle technology. To us this was not a toy, but a vital tool to be used alongside his therapy sessions. We began collecting and amazingly thanks to the power of social media and the fabulous men and women if the Lancashire constabulary who collected around the stations and spread the word with local businesses on their usual beats, we not only got enough phones for the bronze package (165) we actually got enough for the gold package which included a safety case and the grace communication app. We did this in just 27 days!!
A few weeks later the iPad arrived and during a visit from Riley's play therapist I asked how we could incorporate it in to his sessions and everyday life. At this point he was very much in his own little world gave little or no eye contact, and would be very stuck with repetitive activities. We had done the Early Years Tracker to see where he was developing and was only hitting 12-18 months in most areas or lower.

We chose apps that we felt may help to aid development in areas we were working that week and within a few months we could see a difference. We were getting eye contact, & interaction. 2 years on he no longer requires home play therapy. He is fully settled 4 afternoons a week in a mainstream nursery and making huge leaps. On doing his last Early Years development tracker he has made enormous leaps in age in all areas but particularly his IT skills which are at the age of a 6 year old at just 4. We play shape sorting games on the iPad and then try it with actual shape sorters and he can do them all. He has learned colours, numbers and problem solving on the iPad, all of which we have transferred to objects and books. The iPad has helped with social understanding by using social stories apps.

For some reason iPads are the "key" to making a connection with a child with autism, and I am so incredibly grateful to hearts and minds for their phones for iPads exchange scheme, without it we would never of been able to afford one and I am in no doubt Riley's development would still be severely delayed.

Our son makes eye contact, gives hugs, requests his wants and needs using sign language and finally he is starting to talk. A magical sound only 2 years before I thought I would never hear. My heart leaps with pride and gratitude with every new skill & word. And for every new milestone reached is just that bit more special because we know just how hard he had to work to reach it. I can’t thank Hearts and Minds enough for helping my Family.
Louise Stanhope (Riley’s Mummy)
More about the charity here: Hearts & Minds Challenge 

Social media here:

Twitter: @handmchallenge
Pinterest: Hearts and Minds
YouTube: HeartsAndMindsUK 

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